Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers has praised Jose Mourinho as “one of the greats” as he prepares to lock horns against the Roma boss in the Europa Conference League semi-finals on Thursday.
In the opening leg, Rodgers’ side hosts Roma, while Mourinho makes his first appearance on British soil since being ousted by Tottenham last year.
Mourinho has had a rough time at Roma, who are currently fifth in Serie A after a season that has fueled speculation that the Portuguese coach is past his prime.
However, Rodgers, who was Chelsea’s youth team coach during Mourinho’s first stay at the club, insists his old boss is still a force to be reckoned with.
“He has nothing to prove to anyone,” Rodgers told reporters on Wednesday. “He will always be a winner. I cannot speak any higher of him. He is one of the greats of our generation.
“I have got nothing but admiration for him. I became a manager in my own right but I will never forget what I gained from him as a young coach. I studied him and watched him and at that time it was a really special period.”
Mourinho won the Champions League with Porto and Inter Milan in his peak, as well as three Premier League titles with Chelsea during two tenure.
He won two Serie A titles with Inter and a La Liga title with Real Madrid, as well as lifting Manchester United’s most recent trophy in 2017.
When asked what makes Mourinho one of the greatest managers of all time, Rodgers cited the 59-year-many old’s attributes.
“He had the X factor. There wasn’t one single thing. He was brilliant in so many aspects of the game,” Rodgers said.
“Detail-orientated, man-management of the players, his understanding of the tactical adaptation of the game, he had that special quality I was able to see.”
Despite early criticism of the Europa Conference League, Rodgers believes the continent’s third-tier competition has been a fun success in its debut season.
He has his sights set on Leicester’s first European trophy after winning the FA Cup for the first time last season.
“It’s a prestigious competition, all four teams will want to win it,” he said.
“It’s a fantastic occasion against a top-class team. To get to the final we will do everything we can. It’s another symbol of our growth as a club.”